Chapter 10

    Opposition to the Revenue Laws at Boston, 1769 and 1770

    In the fall of the year 1769 Governor Bernard went to England, Commodore Hood returned to Halifax with some of the King’s Ships that had continued at Boston, and took with him the two Regiments that had been brought from Ireland and General Mackay went back to England, leaving the 14th and 29th Regiments at Boston under the command of Lt. Col. Dalrymple.

    Commodore Hood had an attachment to Halifax, and persuading himself that the town of Boston was orderly and would remain quiet with [147] two Regiments only, and being desirous to carry back two Regiments with his Ships to those Quarters, he was induced to represent that there was no necessity for the whole of the Military to remain at Boston.

    General Mackay[,] weary of a command where he saw his Soldiers insulted without being able to relieve them, or exercise his power in keeping the Subjects in Order, was glad to have part of the troops removed, so that there could be no occasion for him to remain at Boston.

    After the Commodore [148] and General with some of the Ships and two of the Regiments were gone, the people grew more bold and violent in their resistance to the Laws of Revenue.#63

    #Several Letters and Memorials from the Servants of the Crown in America to Government at home, having been laid before Parliament, Copies thereof were sent back to America, and the Grand Jury at Boston about the close of 1769 found bills of indictment against the Commissioners of the Customs for divers misrepresentations in their Official Correspondence with the Treasury.

    Every means was used to compel the inhabitants to subscribe to the Regulations which were set up by the heads of the party in opposition, not to import or use British Goods, Tea, &c. brought from thence. And such of the Merchants and Importers as refused to subscribe to the terms that were thus imposed were marked for resentment, and underwent the persecution of the Mob; and during the [149] latter part of the Year 1769 and to near the close of 1770 the town of Boston was subject to the will of a set of arbitrary Demagogues, who kept every one in Subjection. And he who dared to dispute obedience to their usurped authority was in danger of having his house pulled down and of being dragged out by the Mob, and abused in the grossest manner. In short[,] in these times such was the temper of the people, as bore down every principle that combated with their views. They would get free from all restraint of Revenue Laws, and in doing this every [150] thing was just and lawful. A general timidity prevailed, and a silent assent to acts of outrage and violence. In vain were the Magistracy applied to in behalf of Sufferers, no one would stand forth; and to be freed from imaginary grievances, the People submit[t]ed to a real tyranny: for the Demagogues having raised the passions of the people, employed them to intimidate, persecute, and bear down, whomsoever they pleased.

    But notwithstanding all the associations and Subscriptions not to import British Goods and the persecutions of such as dared to persist in that [151] branch of Commerce, there were many persons who outwardly appeared in support of the Combinations against importing Goods from Great Britain, who secretly brought in quantities of such Goods and a book was published in the Year 1770 which was circulated through the other Provinces, containing the names of the persons, and the Cargoes of Goods imported or brought by them into Boston by which the pretended Patriotism of those Men was exposed, and they brought to disgrace in the Southern Provinces; and the publication had a great effect towards bringing the [152] inhabitants to the Southward, to break off from this combination.64

    During the non-importation agreement, it was a practise to mark the doors of such persons as dared to import goods from Great Britain, or who would not sign the agreements proposed by the Leaders of the People, by set[t]ing up an hand with the word, Importer. This was done by Boys and Young People, who gathered round the Doors, and insulted any one who should dare to go into the Shop, or Store of the person so marked.

    One of these hands or [153] other mark being fixed at the door of an inhabitant, and several persons being gathered round the house, one Ebenezer Richardson passing by reproved the people, and removed the hand that had been set up; upon which the crowd pursued him to his dwelling house, and violently broke the windows, throwing Stones and other things at him, in the room where he had sheltered himself; finding the rage of the people to increase and himself in imminent danger, he at length fired a musket amongst them which killed a boy named Schneider.

    Richardson was afterwards taken into custody, and remained [154] in Goal till April 1770[,] when he was tried.

    From this time the resentment of the People against the Soldiery, the Commissioners of the Customs, and the Laws of Revenue, continually increased. They sought occasions of quarrelling with the Soldiery, insulted them in their Posts of duty, and otherwise ‘till the Storm broke forth on the 5 March 1770 when the people, as by concert, attacked several of the Centries on their Posts, particularly the one placed as a Guard at the Custom house. He was posted within call of the Main Guard [155][,] who hearing him cry out when he was attacked, the Captain sent a party to his relief.

    The people still were violent in their abuse, both of the Centry and party. The Captain soon followed. The People rushed up to the ends of the bayonets, throwing brick bats, and striking the Soldiers, daring them to fire. and one of the most desperate attempted to wrest the Musket out of the hands of one of the Soldiers, when he fired and was followed by the rest of the party, who killed and Wounded six or eight of them; and then the rest dispersed.65

    The Governor and Council assembled that night. The [156] party of Soldiers were delivered up, and the Captain surrendered himself into the hands of the Civil power.

    The next day the people assembled in Faneuil Hall. They were urgent in their demands for justice. The Governor and Council were assembled in the town house. The two Regiments were under Arms, the 29th in King Street and the 14th at their Barracks under Fort Hill. The people were very clamorous, and insisted on the two Regiments being withdrawn to Castle William. Lt. Col. Dalrymple[,] the Commander[,] was in Council, as was Capt Cauldwell of the Rose Man of War, then in the Harbour. [157]

    The Colonel wanted to act under the advice and direction of the Governor and endeavoured to persuade others that the command in town lay in him. The Council adjourned to the afternoon, without coming to any resolution, in the interim the Colonel went to some of the Counsellors, and endeavoured to prevail with them to advise the Governor to recommend it to the Colonel to withdraw the Troops. When the Council met in the afternoon the Colonel asserted that one Regiment, the 29th, which had been on guard on the 5th[,] should go to the Castle. The Committee from the People increased in insolence on this concession, and insisted that both [158] Regiments should go to the Castle, and at length to quiet their minds it was agreed to.#

    #What were the whole of the Colonel’s views or motives in this business do not appear, but many people blamed him for this conduct, and imputed it to various causes. From an attention to his after behavior I imagined that he wished to keep well with the people and had in view to succeed as Governor of the Province.

    After this advantage gained over the Soldiery, the next device was to get rid of the Commissioners of the Customs. In order to render them still more obnoxious a story was propagated that at the time the people were killed in King Street, there was firing out of the Custom House and that the people had been killed from thence, by persons employed by the Commissioners. [159]

    Under this suggestion, one Manwaring, an Officer of the Customs in Boston, was taken into Custody, upon the evidence of a french boy, who was his Servant. Two other Persons (one of them a Porter to the Board of Customs) were committed to Goal, along with Manwaring, upon suspicion of being concerned in firing out of the Custom House on the 5th March.

    These accusations, joined to the former odium against the Commissioners and Revenue Laws, threw the people into the greatest ferment, and an Officer of [160] of the Customs scarce dared to shew his head in Boston. The evidence of the French boy, and of about Sixty others, relative to the affair of the 5th March, were industriously taken and circulated through the province, and Mr. Bowdoin wrote letters to many Members of both Houses of Parliament, inclosing Copies of these affidavits, which were printed, so that people’s minds were prejudiced and inflamed, before the Parties accused could be heard, or brought upon their trials.66

    Four of the Commissioners, after the affair of [161] the 5th of March[,] retired from Boston. Mr. Robinson went to England, Mr. Paxton removed to a friend’s house at Cambridge, and Mr. Burch with his family sheltered themselves with me at Brooklyn.

    From an apprehension that the violent temper of the People would lead them to the utmost outrages, and excesses, against the Persons of the Commissioners, Mr. Burch and myself thought it best for Us to retire for a while out of the Province, and the latter end of March we went to Piscataqua.#

    #But though we remained there unmolested, yet the Governor shewed great apprehension for the peace of the town, in case Mr. Paxton should come there, and said it would be out of his power to protect him if he came into the Province, but that Mr. Temple might come and welcome, and he would answer for it no affront should be offered to him.

    About this time the Superior Court sat at [162] Boston when Richardson was tried and found guilty, but the Judges did not proceed to his condemnation.

    One day, whilst the Court was sit[t]ing, the Demagogues of the People came into Court, after having dined with Mr. Temple, one of the Commissioners, and endeavoured to prevail on the Judges to bring on the trial of the Soldiers. The Court behaved with a proper Spirit on the occasion: adjourned and did not bring on these trials during that Term. The temper of the People at that time was no wise disposed to listen calmly to Law, and evidence and the Court gained great [163] reputation with all sensible and temperate people, by their conduct throughout the whole of these troublesome affairs, in these distracted times.

    The latter end of April the Commissioners returned from Piscataqua to Brooklyn.

    The appearance of things would not suffer them to go to Boston, and in the course of the next month the temper of the People rather increased in violence, than subsided; so that they thought it prudent to remove again from the neighbourhood of Boston, but returned again the begin[n]ing of June.

    The Spirit of resentment against the Importers of English Goods, and the Officers of the Customs continued as [164] violent as ever.

    One Owen Richards[,] a Tidesman[,] was dragged from on board a Vessel where he was stationed on duty, and put into a Cart, where he was stripped naked, tarred and feathered, and led in this manner in the Cart for several hours, a shocking spectacle through the town. He brought a Civil action against a person who was chief actor on the occasion, and recovered a trifling damage. He then brought a criminal action against him, but having only his own evidence to support it, it fell through, and he himself was brought in to pay [165] damages to the other Party, who cast him into Goal for twelve pounds charges, from which he was released by Order of the Commissioners, to pay the Charges.

    On the 19th June one Mr. McMaster, a Scotch Merchant and Importer, was taken out of his room, placed in a Cart and made to expect the same treatment that Richards had experienced; but fainting away from an apprehension of what was to befall him, they spared him this ignimony, and contented themselves with leading him through the town in the Cart [166] to Roxbury, where they turned him out, spit[t]ing upon him, and otherwise contemptuously and rudely treating him.

    That same night of the 19th June 1770, after my family were all in bed in my home at Brooklyn (which was a dwelling in the Country, at some distance from any other) I was waked out of my sleep, with a gentle tapping at the Door of the house. On which I got up, and enquired who was there, a voice answered I have a letter for Mr H, from the Grenades, which came by the Express from New York this Morning. Upon which I desired him to wait a little and I would come down. Having slipt on [167] my breeches and waistcoat, I took my sword in my hand, and being cautious of opening the House door, I went to the parlour Window, and having opened the Shutter, a man stood there. I asked him for the letter, and opened the Window a little. He said I have a letter indeed, and advanced, put[t]ing his hands out, with an intent to lift up the sash, upon which I clapt it down, and he instantly struck two violent blows at me, with a bludgeon which broke the upper part of the Window, frame and all; but resting on the middle part did not touch me. No sooner had he given the first blow, than all the Windows round were broke in the same manner, by people placed at each of them. The family [168] immediately rose in the greatest consternation, and Mrs. H opening the Window shutter in her room had a large stone thrown at her[,] which happily missed her. Imagining the people would break into the house, and seek to murther me[,] I ran to the Servants’ room at the head of the back Stairs with my sword in my hand, leaving two Servant Men at the bottom. The people without kept uttering Oaths and execrations for some time, swearing, “dead or alive, we will have him,” but at length they withdrew, and I soon after retired to a Neighbour’s house till daylight, and passed the following day [169] at Mr. John Apthorp’s at little Cambridge. Mrs. H and myself not thinking it safe to return home, we remained at his house for two nights, and hearing that Mr. Burch with his family was gone to the Castle, we came home the following morning, and carried the Children and part of the family from Brooklyn to the Castle. This was the 21 June, and from that time to the 7th November we remained on Castle Island, the Governor allowing Us to make use of his appartments, which were fully occupied by the Commissioners, and Servants, and Officers of the Board.

    I made a representation to the Governor and Council [170] of the attack made upon me, but they took no pains to detect the Perpetrators of this mischief, though it was well known that the people came from Boston and might have been discovered. Some of the Council said I had hired People to come out, and break my own Windows, and from several circumstances there was strong reason to suspect that Mr. T, one of our own Members, had been the means of this assault being made upon me.67

    The violence of the people continued during great part of the Summer, but towards September it abated. They fell off from their Non [171] importation agreement, and their resentment against the Military and Commissioners in some measure subsided.

    About this time Commodore Gambier arrived from England to relieve Commodore Hood and Governor Hutchinson delivered up the Keys of the Fort at Castle Island to Lt. Col. Dalrymple when the Guard from the 14th Regt. marched into the Fort, and the Provincial Garrison withdrew.

    Had further measures been pursued at this time for the amendment of the Government, and the plans proposed by Governor Bernard for an alteration in the Charter been adopted, it [172] is probable that the Constitution might have been set[t]led without further disturbances, and peace and order and good Government have been established in the province.

    The trial of Captain Preston and the Soldiers, which had been put off ‘till the temper of the People was a little cooled, came on about the latter end of October, when they were all acquitted.

    Manwaring and the Custom House servant who had been accused by the French Boy were discharged from their bail, and the Boy [173] was convicted of perjury.68

    Richardson remained in Goal upwards of a Year afterwards, when he was finally discharged on the King’s pardon.

    The acquittal of the Soldiers and Captain Preston, the breaking up the Non[-]importation agreement, with the arrival of Commodore Gambier, produced a change in the behavior of the people, and Government at home were pleased to think they had come to their Senses, and would now remain quiet, having seen the error of their doings. The plan proposed by Governor Bernard, and approved by [174] Lord Hillsborough, Secretary of State for America, for an alteration of the Charter of the Massachusetts Bay, was therefore laid aside, but more particularly owing, as was supposed, to the representation of Governor Hutchinson after he came to the Chair.69 He had some attachment to the Old Charter and great confidence in his own address and ability in managing the People and persuaded himself that he should be able to keep things quiet and the Ministry were easily prevailed on to abstain from a business that would be attended with some trouble and difficulty and the success of which was uncertain. [175]

    From the 7th November 1770 I remained in quiet at my house at Brooklyn. Mr. Hallowell came out Commissioner in the room of Mr. Temple the latter end of December following, and we continued to do the business of the Board unmolested from that time. [176]

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